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As Russia scandal grows, Team Trump faces a crisis of credibility

Donald Trump Jr. still hopes to explain away the latest developments in the Russia scandal. There's no reason to believe him.
(FILES) This file photo taken on July 19, 2016 shows Donald Trump, Jr., speaking on the second day of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans...

Yesterday's developments in the Trump-Russia scandal caught much of the political world off-guard. Even those who've come to expect the worst seemed at least a little surprised to read emails, released by Donald Trump Jr., showing the Trump campaign's eagerness to collude with the Russian government during its attack on the American election.

The president's son is nevertheless under the impression that he can explain this mess away. In fact, he turned to Trump World's friendliest media ally in the hopes of doing exactly that.

In an interview Tuesday night on Fox News Channel's "Hannity," Trump Jr. said: "Someone sent me an email! I can't help what someone sends me. I read it, I responded accordingly, and if there was something interesting there, I think that's pretty common.""It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame," Trump Jr. told host Sean Hannity, but he added: "In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently."

While it's true that much of Team Trump is new to politics and public service, for the record, it's not "pretty common" for an American campaign to welcome assistance from a foreign adversary.

On multiple occasions in the interview, the president's son insisted, "It was such a nothing." Asked, for example, if he'd spoken to his father about the meeting with the Kremlin-linked lawyer offering campaign information from the Russian government, Trump Jr. said, "It was such a nothing, there was nothing to tell." He added, "It was such a nothing, there was no reason to follow up."

At the risk of stating the obvious, it's worth pausing to appreciate a relevant detail: there is literally no reason to accept any of these claims at face value. Trusting Team Trump's rhetoric about the Russian scandal has proven to be folly, and the more the controversy intensifies, the more important it is to be skeptical of dubious denials.

In this case, we already know Trump Jr. has lied about his meeting with the Russian attorney and changed his story, repeatedly, about what happened at the encounter. If the discussion had really been "such a nothing," there's no reason to make claims about the meeting that are clearly untrue.

But this is applicable to every aspect of the story. Trump Jr. says the discussion, to his disappointment, proved to be meaningless. There's no reason to assume that's true. He says he didn't inform Donald Trump Sr. about the conversation. There's no reason to assume that's true, either.

It's not just Trump Jr. The sitting president of the United States has been caught lying, repeatedly, about a great many subjects, including the Russia scandal.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but Trump World is not a credible source for accurate information on any subject. Its crisis of credibility is staggering in its scope and scale. Americans can believe what's documented to be true -- emails, for example, that show the Trump campaign eagerly trying to cooperate with a Russian espionage operation -- but not what the president and his inner circle claim to be true.